Beef Eggplant Stir-Fry and Wholesome Weekends

Cooking, Life, Thoughts

sooooo good

sooooo good

There are weekends that you spend PARTAY-INGGGGGGGGG.

And then there are weekends where you clean your house and workout and sleep on-time and hangout with friends and play boardgames and DON’T get crunk and you’re just generally a good kid.

That’s what I did this past weekend. I was a good kid. And it was awesome. And I feel really good now.

Sometimes it’s good to be good.

Also make this beef eggplant stir-fry, because it’s actually very good and it calls for mint which, incidentally, is a very surprising and refreshing substitute for basil. And it’s spicy and that eggplant soaks up all that zesty, fishy, gingery sauce and it’s SO good.

I’m #justsayin but you should #justcookit.

Moments of Absolute Clarity

Thoughts, Wisdom

Like a beam from the sky!

Like a beam from the sky!

80% of the time I walk around with about a billion things on my mind.

It’s either work or friends or that next thing I have to do or, or, or…

So when something is really bothering me, I try to find a billion solutions.

I talk to my friends about it.
I talk to myself about it.
I blog about it.
I go see a counselor about it.
I Google my Astrology sign.
I Google somemore.

In the middle of me trying to solve, or resolve, whatever is bothering me, I sometimes fill my head up with so much noise that I don’t ever really find the answer or the peace I am seeking.

And then if I ever find myself about to walk somewhere, a perfect time for reflection, I choose to plug in my earphones and listen to whatever playlist is striking my fancy (right now it’s Latin Dance – yeah you know it’s good) and dance myself to my next destination.

There is little time for me to really just think about observe a situation and come up with any sort of realization. And when trying to address something, I analyze all reason out of it.

But luckily it seems like my mind has figured out a way to help me out.

When I’m half-awake at night stumbling to the bathroom for a middle of the night pee (All you small-bladdered people do this – don’t lie), sometimes I find I am struck by these BLINDING epiphanies about whatever is bothering me.

I kid you not, halfway from my room to the john the voice in my head will go from “Oh, why is there SO much light” to suddenly “How could you have worried about that inane thing, when in reality you’re being ridiculous and need to just take it easy.”

Funnily enough most of my midnight conversations to myself involve telling myself to chill out. And then my other self tells my clarity self, “Yes, yes I know, now let me pee and sleep, I’m very tired.”

In the morning I’m usually struck by this feeling like I’ve spoken to a fairy godmother or something and that they’ve told me something really important.

I guess I’m lucky – to have a fairy godmother AKA myself – who’s got my back. Maybe I just need to trust myself, a little bit more and Google, a little bit less.

Lime House

Eating Out, Flash Restaurant Review
Jerk chicken!

Jerk chicken!

What: A Caribbean-style restaurant and bar in the very trendy Keong Saik neighborhood.

Pros: The vibe and decor is great but the real winner is their banana cake dessert with fig ice-cream. I dream about it when I’m alone at night.

Cons: The jerk chicken, AKA the only savory food I ate the night I visited them, was only ok. I thought Caribbean food was supposed to be spicyful and flavorful and I found it spicy-ish and flavorful-ish. And it’s expensive! Ish.

Verdict: Go but for the drinks and vibe. I have a feeling they make mean drinks. And if you don’t like it you can always go to The Cufflink Club – where, apparently, all of Singapore likes to congregate.

Details:
Lime House
2 Jiak Chuan Road
Singapore 089260

Cooking with… PZ

Cooking with Friends, Life
Aerial shot

Aerial shot

I met PZ at work, under what I would describe as not very fortuitous circumstances. She doesn’t know this but we became friends because I thought it would be a good idea to charm her since we had to work together and people generally work better with people they like so…*

Little did I know that once I embarked on this friend-making journey that I was going to end up liking her.

And how couldn’t I? Pei Zhen or PZ, as she gently told me to call her (Pei Zhen is too long, lah!) is a highly capable Comms professional at work and a scarily skilled chef/baker at home.

Some of the earliest text conversations are her telling me how she was making some blueberry cheesecake and Horlicks flavored ice-cream for Chinese New Year “because her mother-in-law liked it.” Hardcore and a good daughter-in-law, what more could you ask for?

As our whatsapping progressed she divulged that she has her own version of french onion soup, packs a gourmet lunch for herself and her husband almost every day and that she’s a walking encyclopedia of cooking information. If I needed a recipe or a way to do something, there were PZ recommended variations or solutions. She’s a 21st century Martha, no airs and graces and ready to draw on her resources for a good meal. This includes real-life cook books, the Internet and her vast experience (which includes on-going friendly culinary competitions with her Mom who also cooks scarily well).

Knowing her made me realize that I wasn’t the shit in the kitchen. But not in a bad way. She just made me realize, some people were made for cooking and some people were made for communicating. So I decided to communicate how she cooks.

This is what I’m hoping will be a new series featuring people in Singapore who cook and who are generally inspirational.

When I mentioned this idea to PZ, she was all for it. She also decided to take it as an opportunity to “school” me and get me to like kale. Kale, the one health superfood I can’t get into. It’s like grass. But tougher. And possibly grosser.

SO. PZ says she will make (while I help and observe) a chorizo-kale-stew thing.

Right.

On the appointed day, PZ came over, all business. She wanted to know where the spices were AND she had brought an entire container of homemade ice-cream dotted with chocolate bits for dessert. If she wasn’t already married, I would have been first in line to woo her.

PZ doing her thang

PZ doing her thang

Knife

Knife

Knife skillz 1

Knife skillz 1

Knife skillz 2

Knife skillz 2

Knife skillz 3

Knife skillz 3

Did PZ live up to how good I thought she was? Well, let’s just say she had no hesitation in taking charge of the kitchen. And her knife skills? I mean I know how to chop things but compared to her I’m like a blind man with three fingers. Can you say EVEN.

Produce shot

Produce shot

Beans for days

Beans for days

Another pretty produce shot

Another pretty produce shot

The stew was all sausages, beans, dried spices and chicken stock. It was hearty, warm and very satisfying.

Me! Being useful

Me! Being useful

Chorizo in all its raw glory

Chorizo in all its raw glory

Chorizo and spices

Chorizo and spices

Chorizo and spices

Chorizo and spices

Kale

Kale

So much kale

So much kale

Chorizo and kale

Chorizo and kale

PZ confidently breezed through all the cooking, with minimal help from me, except towards the end of cooking when we tasted the stew and it was just flat.

But what do you do? I would have just let it go, eaten the flat stew and lamented about how I was never cooking that again!

PZ tasted it. Hmmed and haaed. Asked me for my opinion. Declared it needed some oomph – in the form of red wine vinegar.

Repeated Instagram photo

Repeated Instagram photo

It did the trick, gave dimension to the stew which we enjoyed with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread from Marche and a glorious Sauvignon Blanc from who knows where.

It was a fantastic lunch and an even better experience.

PZ had made me realize, that you should never accept a bad outcome. Instead, you should always try and fix it.

It might work or it might not.

But it could mean the difference between being good or being great.

*This may also be the genesis of my friendship with you. But don’t worry, we are both benefiting from the relationship. I promise.

**My flatmate Hoi is the photographer for these beautiful pictures, which is what happens when you decide to stick around and eat the lunch. There’s no such thing as a free one, people.

*** I still don’t like kale.

Jonathan’s

Eating Out, Flash Restaurant Review
The brownie that got me to Jonathan's

The brownie that got me to Jonathan’s

What: Gluten-free, super un-pretentious cafe, located in Little India, owned by the cutest couple in ALLTHELAND.

Pros: This is obviously a haven for all the gluten-intolerant (real and imagined) people in Singapore and their big breakfast (don’t actually remember the name) was delicious. And, AND they salt the eggs so that I don’t have to. What is it with unseasoned food in restaurants nowadays? It should be perfect on a plate, I shouldn’t have to do any work when I’m eating out.

Cons: Hard one to admit but though I visited Jonathan’s for their salted caramel brownie (my colleague had given me a regular brownie her niece aka the owner of Jonathan’s had baked and it was todiefor) – I didn’t like it that much. Their savory options win over the sweet.

Verdict: OMG visit them and eat and laugh and pretend to be healthy – you know you want to.

Disclaimer: My friend and colleague’s niece actually owns Jonathan’s BUT this review is unbiased. Even if I spent most of brunch chilling with the owners screaming, “I DON’T WANT TO SALT MY SHIT!”

Details:
Jonathan’s
17 Dalhousie Lane
Singapore 209685
+65 6291 3396

It’s like I visited Mongolia or something…

Travel, Wisdom
A wider shot than the original - so you can see the BIG BLUE SKY

A wider shot than the original – so you can see the BIG BLUE SKY

As you all know – I went to Mongolia for a vacation, recently, and I took a lot of pretty pictures.

But the thing is I actually took even more than the ones you’ve seen. So voila! Ils sont ici!

This is a photo story combined with random things I think you should know about Mongolia.

Rocks and sky. There's a story behind this rock. Ask me in person. Used a VSCO filter

Rocks and sky. There’s a story behind this rock. Ask me in person. Used a VSCO filter

Lightly edited shot in the countryside

Lightly edited shot in the countryside

Wide shot of the gyrs we stayed in

Wide shot of the gyrs we stayed in

Shot of the gyr! And my Dad looking badass. Used a VSCO filter

Shot of the gyr! And my Dad looking badass. Used a VSCO filter

That sky!

That sky!

Sky, sky, sky!

Sky, sky, sky!

Me and my father-in-law? I don't know what I'm supposed to call him, but father in Mongolian is "Ow" as in ow!

Me and my father-in-law? I don’t know what I’m supposed to call him, but father in Mongolian is “Ow” as in ow!

I took this shot after a 30 minute solitary hike/walk up a hill in the countryside while listening to 90s tunes. I needed to get away and I got great pictures!

I took this shot after a 30 minute solitary hike/walk up a hill in the countryside while listening to 90s tunes. I needed to get away and I got great pictures!

They are famous for their meat and their dairy. I don’t drink milk, but I did eat a lot of sheep, beef and more sheep. It was delicious. Top three things to eat in Mongolia, horshoo (deep fried meat dumpling), horhog (meat and vegetables cooked in a pressure cooker with the heat from freakishly hot pebbles) and barbecue (you know this). Try and get home-cooked versions of this. Like by making friends with locals.

Mongolian currency is Tugguruk – and it’s about USD1 to MGT1,900. Think about it like Korean won (if you’re familiar) and it’s close. Things in Mongolia aren’t that cheap – you’re looking at pricing similar to Singapore for food and clothing.

Parking lot at the Genghis Khan memorial

Parking lot at the Genghis Khan memorial

Genghis Khan - shot from below

Genghis Khan – shot from below

I don't know what I was trying to show. Maybe that the statue is really big?

I don’t know what I was trying to show. Maybe that the statue is really big?

People are really into Adidas. Like REALLY.

Mongolian sounds like a cross between Korean and Russian. It sounds especially Korean to me because of that one time, I lived in Korea…

The city was modeled after Soviet cities. Whatever that means.

View from the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

View from the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

Streets near the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

Streets near the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar

Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar

Sukhbaatar Square - lightly edited

Sukhbaatar Square – lightly edited

Genghis Khan (of course) - processed with a VSCO filter

Genghis Khan (of course) in Sukhbaatar Square – processed with a VSCO filter

Genghis' bodyguards. I used a VSCO filter

Genghis’ bodyguards. I used a VSCO filter

Lightly edited shot from the Sukhbaatar Square. Lot of construction going on in Mongolia

Lightly edited shot from the Sukhbaatar Square. Lot of construction going on in Mongolia

Alcoholism is a problem.

Pick-pockets are everywhere. Keep you money stashed safely on your person and don’t flash your fancy shit around.

Summer doesn’t start till July/August.

Buddha statue and me! I used a VSCO filter

Buddha statue and me! I used a VSCO filter

Soviet WWII War Memorial on what used to be the highest hill in Mongolia. Processed with a VSCO filter

Soviet WWII War Memorial on what used to be the highest hill in Mongolia. Processed with a VSCO filter

The Mongolian alphabet is the Cyrillic alphabet – aka the Russian alphabet.

Good places to eat while in Ulaanbaatar:
Broadway – serves great Western and other food.
Jur Ur – the best chocolate tart I’ve eaten in my life came from this place. There’s either coconut or bits of heaven in the crust.
Korean food is generally great – so you can probably eat that anywhere.

The two best things in Mongolia are it’s BIG BLUE SKY and it’s people. They are straightforward, warm and hospitable.

As we sped to the airport my brother yelled, "Take a picture - that's UB!" This is that picture.

As we sped to the airport my brother yelled, “Take a picture – that’s UB!” This is that picture.

Holiday Burn-out

Thoughts, Travel

 The maximum I can spend on a holiday or retreat or any kind of getaway is about a week. This is usually because I get bored or tired of the vacation and want to get back to my real life.

While this might seem like a symptom of being perennially unable to switch off, I think this is an underreported symptom of vacationing that everyone feels – holiday burn-out. 

What exactly is holiday burn-out, you ask? It’s that feeling you get before, during and/or after a holiday when the fun or family time or leisure time isn’t enjoyable anymore. It’s just plain exhausting and stressful. And your 9 to 5 is starting to sound like a lot more fun than sunning yourself on the beach till you turn a flaky golden-brown.

So for me, I think part of the reason why I miss work and home, while I’m even on the funnest (real word TM DiniBlini) of vacations, is because I like routine. Another reason for this vacation intolerance could be that I actually find my life to be more interesting or exciting than a vacation.

Or maybe holiday burn-out is inevitable – we all feel it once we’ve passed that self-determined window of time that we allow ourselves to mentally check out. Mine just happens to be a week. 

I have friends who enjoy two, three or a month long vacations and I envy them. Is it that they really know how to live it up while on holiday or is it that I just haven’t found a place or time or experience worth missing real life for?

Secret Vacation Behavior 

Travel

you know what I’m talking about

As you all know from my steady stream of pictures from the past few days, I’m in Mongolia and I’m on vacation. While I don’t quite have the time nor the desktop for a full holiday/travel post, I would like to share a short list of of “secret” behaviors I engage in while on vacation. 

1. I try not to wear make-up because chances are you’re traveling with people you’re not trying to impress and the people at your destination have no idea that you could look better. So my skin gets a break, I feel stupidly feminist AND I don’t have to pack all them products. And for that last fancy dinner when I do put make-up on, I can always count on a few “Ooh, you look so good,” and that’s always nice. 

2. Whenever free/ when confronted with good lighting I engage in hair removal. Let’s face it, when on vacay there’s always some free time. Instead of spending it on my phone or reading (because really, who needs that), I choose to wax and pluck whatever hairs have gone astray. Waxing is especially good to do when you’re visiting cold places (Let the hair grow baby! And then when you’re back home you’re all booty short ready) and tweezing is great to do on beach vacations when you’re chilling on your villa patio (or whatever) and the great lighting allows you to pick up ALL the stray hairs.

3. I try to workout. Vacations are funny, amazing, rejuvenating adventures which can, whether we like to admit it or not, throw our bodies out of whack. Whether it’s the under sleeping, overeating or constant imbibing – sometimes it can leave a person worse for the wear. I like to get a couple of yoga sessions in (save the sessions on my tablet and practice wherever) and walk a lot and uphill (upwards of 10,000 steps), if running isn’t an option. I’ve heard of people who run through the cities they are visiting as some kind of workout/sightseeing combo. One day I hope to be as hip and European as them.

And I of course eat all the chocolate and carbs I can find. But I think that might not be such a big secret.

Fighting Flight

Thoughts, Travel

  

As I write this, the seatbelt sign has been turned on and I’m bracing myself, albeit more lightly than I usually do, for turbulence on my recent flight from Incheon to Ulanbaatar.

Ok I confess I had to stop writing and watch Chappie to distract myself – which incidentally – is a fantastic movie.

The fear of flying is something I developed about a year ago. I think it was a result of me flying every month and not being able to control the fact that I had to.

Which leads me back to why I am, or most people are, afraid of flying. It’s the complete and utter lack of control you have over the plane. I mean I know it’s the same when you’re a passenger in a car, bus or train, but when you’re in a plane your feet are nowhere near the ground – and I think that’s some freaky shit.

We worry what would happen should the worst happen. What happens to our families, the future we had wanted so badly for ourself or worse still – in those final moments that we really can’t control.

Which makes me think that maybe it’s not at all about flying. It’s about not having control. But the truth is we have very little control whether in flight. Or in life.

If we could accept this maybe the outcome wouldn’t be so scary. Or as scary.

Still I would like to propose a few practical solutions to this conundrum:

1. Deep breathing.

2. Alcohol.

3. Life insurance. Lotsssss of it 😝

Leftover Gochujang Paste Salad

Cooking, Thoughts, Work

Forgive the fuzziness - look at the pearly keeeen wahhh

Forgive the fuzziness – look at the pearly keeeen wahhh

Friends, my blogging has been patchy and I apologize for that. Work has become all-consuming, and funnily enough I’m happy about it.

My Dad, who worked as the head of HR in a very prominent international bank for many years, once told me that he used to tell his staff that if they liked 30% of their job – they were lucky. I like close to 80 to 90% of my job. So I must be very lucky.

It’s not often that you get paid to “sell” or in my case “communicate” a product that you believe in, so very much.

These past few weeks, as things have gotten busier at work, I have found myself getting more tied to my organisation. Each task I had to do, each press release I had to write and each project I had to manage somehow made me more invested in the outcome of how we were being presented in the public. And it’s not because it’s a KPI or goal I have to meet. It’s because I am so proud of the work we are doing.

Science Comms you know? The researchers are passionate geniuses and I’m lucky to be along for the ride.

Ack – just went off on a tangent about work when I’m clearly supposed to be talking about gochujang and food!

So, since I’ve been working hard, it’s left little time for cooking. Or less, anyway.

One weeknight I wanted a fresh healthy salad, but didn’t want my protein to be that regular grilled chicken with garlic and lemon I eat ALLTHEDAMNTIME. I realized I had gochujang in the fridge (leftover from my last bibimbap-making frenzy). Why does that matter you ask? WELL, gochujang is a fabulous marinade for chicken.

So that same night, after a hard day’s work, I slathered two tablespoons of gochujang on one chicken thigh and stuck it in the fridge to marinade while I ran my 5K.

When I came back – I popped it in the oven for 30 mins (flipping it once in the middle) at 200 degrees and it was gorgeous. I served it with cooked quinoa, chopped cucumber, diced red peppers and mixed salad leaves drizzled with this Asian-y salad dressing.

This baby can keep you going strong for all them working hours. Like it did me 🙂